IF YOU ARE ever attending an event at which Ms Penelope Wensley AO, Governor of Queensland, will be speaking take a note book. I am sure you will find about six fascinating pieces of information you can use in your next trivia night.
Recently I attended the Dr David Williams Lecture at King’s College (a Uniting Church affiliated college at the University of Queensland in St Lucia, Brisbane) delivered by Ms Wensley. I learnt about the naming of St Lucia, the sugar industry in that area and the demise of the sugar mill on the Brisbane River.
While our Governor’s speeches are a great source of questions for trivia nights, they are far from trivial in their substance. Her lecture at King’s College was entitled The Pursuit of Happiness.
Her Excellency spoke about her time as High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to the predominantly Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. She told us that the King of Bhutan decided to measure the success of his country not by the gross national product (GNP) but by gross national happiness.
While that may be hard to define and measure, it does point to the conviction that the wellbeing of a nation should not be understood only in economic terms.
When Jesus said that he came to give life more abundantly, I am sure he was not measuring that abundance with GNP.
Does abundant living shape the way we view our national wellbeing?
When I try to understand what an abundant life might look like I find myself being drawn to John’s Gospel.
I think of John Chapter 3 in which we are told that the Spirit gives life to those who believe in Jesus Christ.
We are told that in order to experience this eternal life we must be born again.
Every time I think that I have discovered this new life, I am made aware of the other aspects of my life that need to die to allow new life to be born again.
Has the notion of being born again become such a cliché that its power to transform and bring hope is lost?
Of course John 3:16 tells us that God loved the “cosmos” so much that he gave his son. Do we who share his life care for the health of the “cosmos” or only ourselves?
Does this offer us the bridge to engage with those who have deep concern for the wellbeing of the planet and have not considered that its creator might be interested in their personal life and wellbeing?
John Chapter 10 says Jesus is the good shepherd who tries to gather all of God’s people into the one fold where security and abundant life are found.
In this metaphor, abundant living is not a matter of living in a particular way or even believing the right things. Abundant life in Christ is found in belonging to the community found in God: father, son and spirit.
In John Chapter 14 Jesus makes it clear that such an intimate relationship with the father is only possible though him: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
John has already made it clear that Jesus longed for all of creation to share the intimacy of the relationship he had with his father. So this statement cannot be used by us to create exclusion from the heart of God.
It points to the reality that while there may be many ways that people search for God and many paths that lead to a certain spiritual enlightenment, the intimacy of the parent child relationship will not become a reality apart from a relationship with Jesus.
The more I ponder Jesus’ offer of abundant life, life in all its fullness, the more I see that it has personal significance as well as community and global significance.
I wish that, like our Governor, all of us could find a way to move our conversations from the trivial to the deeper issues that shape the way our nation understands health and wellbeing.
In our society the Church is applauded for the way it provides for the physical health and wellbeing of thousands of people daily.
Our hospitals, Blue Care Domiciliary Service, aged care facilities and the wide variety of community services provided through Lifeline Community Care are greatly appreciated, yet the broader community seems less responsive to the Church’s offer of living bread.
How can we be more effective in our proclamation of Jesus as the source of abundant living?
How can we influence our nation’s view of health and wellbeing?